Although it has been a few days since I last posted, I am still here!
I am aiming for “Optimum Health” these days.
Reading, Researching and Absorbing all the information I can on the vitamins and minerals necessary to live a healthy and happy lifestyle.
I have read many an article regarding what a plant based diet offers and does not offer nutritionally.
For instance: The statement regarding Vegans being B12 deficient. -or- Questions like “Do I still need to take supplements if I am a vegetarian or a vegan?
So many people go along in life and don’t think about what the issues this crazy Standard American Diet holds for our bodies in the future. At least until the diagnosis tells us we have high cholesterol or diabetes or any of the other health issues that exist in our society. (Cancer, Strokes, Heart Disease, etc.)
I will begin with B12 and continue covering various vitamins and minerals until we are done learning and adding to our wonderful temples of life.
I have said again and again in this blog that our body is our temple. Making sure we get proper nutrition into our bodies is much like adding gardens, pools, beautiful decor, etc. to the temple. To make us the most supreme beautiful beings that walk the face of the earth in this time. As humanity continues and flourishes we will learn more and more about the things nature provides for our bodies – Naturally!
There are no reliable, unfortified plant sources of vitamin B12*; therefore fortified foods and/or supplements are necessary for the optimal health of vegans and even vegetarians in many cases. Luckily, vitamin B12 is made by bacterial fermentation such that no animal foods are necessary to provide it.
There are two types of B12 deficiency: overt and mild.
Overt vitamin B12 deficiency:
B12 protects the nervous system. Without it, permanent damage can result (e.g., blindness, deafness, dementia). Fatigue, and tingling in the hands or feet, can be early signs of deficiency. B12 also keeps the digestive system healthy and an overt deficiency can cause digestive problems. (IBS? Diverticulitis? Diverticulosis? Crohns Disease?)
Mild vitamin B12 deficiency:
By lowering homocysteine levels, B12 reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. Vegans and near-vegans who do not supplement with vitamin B12 have consistently shown elevated homocysteine levels.
From 1999 to 2003, there were many studies comparing the homocysteine levels of vegans and vegetarians who do not supplement their diet with vitamin B12 to those of non-vegetarians. In every study, the vegans or vegetarians had higher homocysteine levels than the meat-eaters and in the range associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
In contrast, one study compared vegans who supplemented their diets with vitamin B12 (an average of 5.6 mcg/day) with non-vegetarians. Their homocysteine levels were the same, and well within the healthy range.
It is true that many vegans do not supplement with B12 and remain apparently healthy for many years. These vegans normally have no idea what their homocysteine levels are, nor what chronic diseases such elevated levels might be causing. They also do not know if they are suffering from unnoticeable nerve damage. You are taking a big chance by assuming you have transcended a need for a typical B12 intake.
As people live longer, homocysteine has more years to cause damage to the body. Because of this, the human need for B12 has increased over time. The longer a vegan does not supplement with B12, the lower their active B12 levels will drop, increasing their homocysteine levels.
What Is Homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Epidemiological studies have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood (plasma) is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
Other evidence suggests that homocysteine may have an effect on atherosclerosis by damaging the inner lining of arteries and promoting blood clots. However, a direct causal link hasn’t been established.
Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, as well as by genetic factors. The dietary components with the greatest effects are folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. Folic acid and other B vitamins help break down homocysteine in the body. Several studies have found that higher blood levels of B vitamins are related, at least partly, to lower concentrations of homocysteine. Other recent evidence shows that low blood levels of folic acid are linked with a higher risk of fatal coronary heart disease and stroke. (YIKES!)
Omega -3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for preventing heart disease, depression, and possibly other problems. There are three important omega-3 fatty acids:
ALA – alpha-linolenic acid; found in a wide range of foods (ALA is a short chain (18 carbon) fatty acid. It is found in small amounts in animal flesh, in very small amounts in a variety of plant products, and in relatively large amounts in soy, walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds and their oil, hempseed oil, camelina oil, and chia seed oil. The human body cannot make its own ALA – it must be obtained through the diet.)
EPA – eicosapentaenoic acid; found mainly in fish. (EPA is a long chain (20 carbon) fatty acid. It is found mostly in fatty fish, in small amounts in eggs, and in very small amounts in seaweed. Some EPA is converted into series 3 eicosanoids which can reduce blood clotting, inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol. The human body can produce EPA out of ALA and out of DHA.)
DHA – docosahexaenoic acid; found mainly in fish and seaweed (DHA is a long chain (22 carbon) fatty acid. It is found mostly in fatty fish, in small amounts in eggs, and in very small amounts in seaweed. It is a major component of the gray matter of the brain, and also found in the retina, testis, sperm, and cell membranes. Low levels of DHA have been associated with depression, and high levels and intake are associated with lower rates of heart disease.)
The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA. ALA is efficiently converted to EPA, but it may require large amounts of ALA to produce optimal amounts of DHA. Recent evidence has raised a potential concern that large amounts of ALA could be harmful to the eyes over the long term.
Without diet planning, vegans and vegetarians have low omega-3 intakes and blood levels. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans should moderately supplement with sources of ALA and also supplement with DHA.
1. 200 – 300 mg DHA
2. Do not prepare food with oils high in omega-6 (corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, “vegetable,” sesame oil). Instead, use low omega-6 oils like olive, avocado, peanut, or canola. Only cook canola under low heat and for short periods.
3. Add 0.5 g of uncooked ALA to your diet daily. This would be the equivalent of:
1/5 oz English* walnuts (3 halves)
1/4 tsp of flaxseed oil
1 tsp of canola oil
1 tsp ground flaxseeds
*English walnuts are the typical walnuts for sale in grocery stores. They are distinct from black walnuts
Just as you must constantly be preparing for your next meal when on the RAW FOOD DIET, you must always be thinking of your body. Is it getting all that it needs for Optimum Health?
#International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids